Mario Radosavljevic talks about LOMA Wheels in times of Covid-19.
A short interview with the founder of the LOMA Group, Mario Radosavljevic.
Mario Radosavljevic talks about LOMA Wheels in times of Covid-19. Talking to Mario Radosavljevic is always spectacular because he does not put his attention to select words that others may like to hear. Mario Radosavljevic talks about LOMA Wheels in times of Covid-19 and what holds the future for him and the company. He speaks what he thinks is right, no matter what.
Media Group: You are now in your 12th year with LOMA in the automotive industry. What is your reflection on the past decade, and how do you see the LOMA brand today?
Mario Radosavljevic: It is excellent to see you guys asking me questions again. By reminding me of the 12 years of LOMA existence, you remind me that I am 12 years older (laugh), but be sure, only on paper. I am living my dream life and couldn't be happier. I am, in fact, so graceful that the creator gave me the possibility to do what I want to do and not be forced to work just what others want from me. When I founded the LOMA brand in 2008, nobody believed it would take off. 90% of the people told me that I would not survive the first six months because I was fully broke and missed any direction in my life. However, one thing that separates me from the rest is the unbelievable belief in me and an unblurred focus on where and what I want to be soon. Now I am laughing but not about them, and I laugh from luck and happiness what wonderful life I am living. Be strong, Be focused and Be positive. Your mindset will determine your future — big hug to all friends and business partners. And a big hug to my enemies — I squeeze you guys a bit stronger than my friends (laugh).
I think that the pandemic situation now is something that is a cycle because nearly every century in human history started with a tragedy. It looks like, no exception in this one. In the 1920s, we had significant depression. Because the economies are shutting down, it is clear that many people are living in fear.
Media Group: Do you have a fear of this situation?
Mario Radosavljevic: No, I don't. Every crisis has winners and losers, and if you know me, you know I will never be ever part of the losing team. Entrepreneurship is all about adjusting. It is like a fight in the octagon. If your opponent (the market) hits you with something unusual, you can't follow blind your strategy. That's what we have done, adjusted, and the business is running fine while we are facing things that even the best strategy cant solve.
Media Group: Which is?
Mario Radosavljevic: We have huge problems with the shipping companies. Not only that partners that we have over ten years to ship our products are not working correctly anymore, but they also outsource the job without telling us a single word. Before Covid-19, the goods arrived within days at the customer's house; we sometimes look into weeks. Shipping prices went up too, so we cover a big part on our own, so we don't have to charge our customers. It is what it is, but I believe, soon we will go back to normal.
Media Group: How is the brand doing since you moved to Monte Carlo?
Mario Radosavljevic: Boy, it took a while to solve our past problems with the damn flow-form wheels, but now we faced 2019 and 2020, the best years in companies' history. Even Covid-19 didn't change that. Honestly, I believe it helped us also because people didn't travel too much and bought much more online. As we are a luxury brand, you have the advantage to be not in the down-cycle when economic crises are hitting the market. Yes, we felt it, but due to the significant impact on social media, where people posted against the pandemic with whatever, online sales started. We are now with every single keyword that is important to us in the Google search engines (USA) on page 1 or places 1, and this is incredible. Since I managed to bring the LOMA brand to Monte Carlo, the high-end customer's trust was going through the roof. We are selling trust in the first place, and what can be more trustful than being part of famous Monaco, right? Since America's situation changed, we also have 82,3% on sales in the US.
Media Group: What situation you mean?
Mario Radosavljevic: Well, explain that I have to go back a bit. Before Covid-19, you had around 200 US-companies that presented themselves as " manufacturers. " Except HRE Wheels, everyone else was buying in a private label program alloy forged wheels from China and stamped Made in the USA on the back of each rim. Now, since US-President Donald Trump started a trade war with China, he made my day by putting a substantial anti-dumping tax of over 52% on China's wheels when imported into the US. The beauty in that is that 90% of the so-called US wheel manufacturers, which were, in reality, living room companies mostly with one single laptop disappeared, because the Chinese wheel factories were shutting down and asked for huge orders which the fake manufacturers couldn't pay. Since the trade war, the prices for custom wheels in the US have become around 35-40% more expensive. The wheel companies that still import from China need to cover the USA's anti-dumping import tax. This makes now the competition for US-customers much easier for us than before; we were much too pricey to some guys overseas. Now that the prices went up for US-wheels, customers are looking more to Europe, so we sell much more. Most luxury customers are driving European car brands, making sense to buy custom wheels from Europe.
Media Group: That makes sense. So in Germany, the brands should now do better business too, so you have other competitors?
Mario Radosavljevic: Not really. Look, brands like Brabus are already established and specialized on one brand, which is Mercedes, right? So, in this case, I don't believe that they experience any change in the US-politics applied to China. Real wheel manufacturers in the custom industry you don't have in Germany because the labor cost and taxes are crazy. You have the worst customer service on the planet were even German are saying, we have the worst customer service in the world. I don't see any competition for the international market coming from there. Nine from ten companies in Germany are one-man-shows, with no possibility to grow the company which is evident if you look at the costs they have to run a company there.
Media Group: But you are producing in Germany too!
Mario Radosavljevic: Yes, partly we do, but we have a significant advantage. Producing and store products in Germany without any sales causes no tax payments if you can prove that the goods are leaving the country. In our case, they do, as they come to Monte Carlo and then to the end customer. So we are using the tax advantage the German authorities give foreigners but not to their people. Don't argue with me if this is fair or not, and I am not a politician. I am an entrepreneur that is using all tools given. Besides that, we have opened by the beginning of 2020 a new factory in Taiwan to serve the Asian market. This has been done for two reasons. Reason number one is, we don't want to wait until this tax advantage in Germany is gone. Secondly, China is the biggest growing market in the world. They have crazy luxury goods taxes to pay, which we avoid if we produce in Taiwan. Since the Chinese understand that Europeans are manufacturing it and controlling it, the sales are going steady in one direction, up!
Media Group: How you see the future of your brand?
Mario Radosavljevic: Nobody can predict the future to my information, but you can set some things and hope that at least one of them hits the target. My success story is based on the fact that I never bet on one horse only because it's clear as water that failure will happen. That's why the LOMA Group exists, and that is why you can shake my brand but never kill it. We have currently moved into a new location in Monaco. We need more space and waiting on our new office space in One Monte Carlo, which is still under construction. From there, we will attack with fresh blood and get things rolling. I will continue to grow the brand in different directions and see what the future brings. 2019 and 2020 were difficult for me as I have to fight health issues and had some surgeries, but I am back more vital than ever, and some vast things are set up for 2021, and I can't wait to execute them. The most important for me is to enjoy my time with my family in Monte Carlo, Monaco, because it is merely the best place you can be on planet earth.
Media Group: Thank you very much for your time.